Abuse of Adderall a growing trend for college students
Posted: Saturday, June 5, 2010 7:58 am
By: Emily Williams, Messenger Intern
By EMILY WILLIAMS
For college students, the end of the semester seems to bring with it an endless amount of papers, tests and projects.
While it may seem like a contradiction, many students hoping to do well often turn to a drug that has a very high potential for dependence and abuse — Adderall.
A prescription drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Adderall is abused by as many as one in four college students, according to a nationwide survey reported in the journal Addiction.
Union City pharmacist Jason Kizer explained that Adderall, or amphetamine-dextroamphetamine, stimulates the central nervous system by increasing the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. The drug helps restore the balance of these neurotransmitters to the parts of the brain that control the ability to focus and pay attention, which is very helpful for those who suffer from ADHD but also makes the drug popular among students who have no attention problems.
This enhanced ability to focus is what makes Adderall so popular for students, helping them pull an “all nighter” to study for a test or finish a paper.
Samantha*, a junior at the University of Tennessee at Martin, said she takes Adderall for important tests and always for finals because it keeps her awake and focused. She said she can see a definite improvement in her grades when she takes Adderall to study.
Matt*, a biology major at a local university, said “getting Adderall is never a problem.” He explained it is very easy to find someone with a prescription who is willing to sell their pills for a few dollars or who will give them away to close friends.
“Abuse of the drug is not limited to undergraduate students,” a University of Tennessee Law School student said. “Adderall is even more popular among law school students than it was in undergrad. The course work is more demanding and everyone is familiar with the magic of those pills.”
Macy*, a junior at the University of Tennessee at Martin, has never used Adderall but has seen how it affects others.
“It’s unfair that some people use a drug to stay up all night studying before a test when the rest of us have managed our time effectively,” she said. “I know I could easily get Adderall, but it’s cheating. For people with ADHD, it just makes them study normally, and for people without ADHD, it makes them super scholars.”
The drug can also be very damaging to abusers’ health.
In fact, the FDA requires the following “black box” warning on Adderall: Amphetamines have a high potential for abuse. administration of amphetamines for prolonged periods of time may lead to drug dependence and must be avoided. particular attention should be paid to the possibility of subjects obtaining amphetamines for nontherapeutic use. Misuse of amphetamine may cause sudden death and serious cardiovascular adverse events.
Further medical studies indicate these drugs carry an even more significant risk of serious, or even life-threatening, adverse effects when combined with alcohol, as is often the case with college students. Even if unintentionally, the drug is often still in students’ systems when they are drinking.
According to SAMHSA’s Drug Abuse Warning Network for 2009, an estimated 7,873 drug-related emergency department visits involved Adderall.
In addition, Kizer explained, “Being Schedule II, Adderall is in the same category as oxycontin or cocaine in terms of potential for dependence.”
All of the students interviewed admitted that repeatedly taking Adderall builds up a tolerance and they need to take a higher dosage to experience the same effects. Many added that, after using the drug, they felt worthless, tired or even depressed as the effects wore off.
A recent survey by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Substance Abuse uncovered more disturbing information about the drug and those who abuse it. The survey found almost 90 percent of students who abuse Adderall had also binged on alcohol in the same month. It found that these students were also three times more likely to use marijuana, eight times more likely to use cocaine and five times more likely to use pain relievers, non-medically, than students who do not abuse Adderall.
Taking prescription drugs in a way that hasn’t been recommended by a doctor can be more dangerous than people think, according to the FDA website. It is drug abuse and is as illegal as taking street drugs.
Sources: “The Report on Non-Medical Use of Adderall among Full-time College Students.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, United States Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k9/adderall/adderall.cfm
“Drugs at FDA.org.” http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cder/drugsatfda/index.cfm?fuseaction=Search.DrugDetails
*The names of the students have been changed at their request.
Editor’s Note: Emily Williams, the daughter of Roger and Juli Williams of Woodland Mills, is a senior at Rhodes College in Memphis. She is interning at The Messenger this summer.
Published in The Messenger 6.4.10